SAT Does Not Reflect Intelligence

Catalina Kerwin, Journalist

As SAT week approaches, South High School juniors are frantically studying shortcuts while  nervous freshmen wonder how to prepare for their first of many practice standardized tests. Two million students take the SAT every year hoping to be accepted to their dream school.  Despite some colleges that have recently eliminated the SAT from their admission requirements, the vast majority of colleges still determine their admissions based on a flawed test. We are taught that SAT scores determine where we attend college, which is partly true. The SAT and ACT asses a student’s ability to score well on a standardized test yet not necessarily classroom performance or intelligence. Because of this, standardized testing such as SAT and ACT should be optional or de-emphasized in college admissions. 

  In high school, every student takes the SAT or ACT to apply for colleges. In a perfect world this is a good system because the test reflects your knowledge of language and math. Theoretically if you paid attention in class, did the classwork and studied you will receive a good score on the test. In reality some students have a leg up because of their family income. Others simply are not good test takers and have other talents that can not be judged by the test. To do well on most standardized tests you have to memorize information and learn the shortcuts. Dr. Gardener, is a Professor of education at Harvard University. He suggests a theory  that there is more to being intelligent then simply being proficient in English and math. He has identified nine types of intelligence. Standardized tests like SAT and ACT focus only on linguistic and logical mathematical intelligence. These skills can be learned at school but Gardner’s theory suggests kids who are not naturally smart in these areas struggle and are at a disadvantage. 

Families with a higher income have a leg up on their less wealthy peers. One study found that SAT scores increase with every additional $20,000 in family income. Wealthy students have an opportunity to take the test multiple times which is known to increase scores. In addition students who live in wealthy school districts have better funded schools. These school will have SAT prep classes and tutors. Wealthy students can afford to take expensive prep classes that have been shown to raise scores. Standardized tests were created to test intelligence but recently it is a reflection of shortcuts and privilege.         

An above average SAT or ACT score is seen as a passport to college, high paying jobs and success. The pressure students feel to get accepted to a top school or receive a scholarship has made the SAT vulnerable to cheating and loopholes. The college cheating scandal uncovered the cheating atmosphere. It was discovered that prospective college students’ parents were paying people to take the SAT for them under their name to get a high enough score to be accepted into their dream school. 

Making the SAT optional for all college applications make the application process more fair but also removes the pressure that comes with taking standardized tests. Removing standardized tests from the admission requirements makes college more accessible for all qualified students. For many Juniors, test week provides great opportunities to earn an acceptance into their dream school but, for others it is a stressful test that doesn’t reflect their intelligence and puts them at a disadvantage. College applications should be test optional and other parts of the application should be considered over an SAT score. This can be done by looking at community and school involvement like sports, clubs and community service in addition to grades. Juniors that did well on the test can submit their score and ask for their score to be considered in the application process. It is important to asses students success in the classroom in addition to traits harder to quantify like community involvement and concern for others.